LABOR has pushed back hard against the government’s plan to move 67 public service jobs from the Hunter to the Central Coast and says it is “driven by contempt”.
It comes as the finance minister ticks off on a plan to relocate Office of State Revenue workers from Maitland and Newcastle to Gosford.
While the plan was lauded as “great news” for Gosford, Labor says it comes at the expense of the Hunter and is “disingenuous” for the government to claim they are new jobs.
The Newcastle Herald can reveal 21 jobs will be affected in the Newcastle office as Maitland is hit harder with 46 jobs expected to relocate.
News of the announcement prompted an insider to phone the Herald and explain how “shell-shocked” staff were about what had occurred.
“Everybody is shell-shocked – all the emotions you would expect. You basically move or you don’t have a job,” the worker said last week.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison labelled the plan “devastating”, particularly for Maitland, which was grappling with a downturn in mining and could ill-afford to lose any more jobs.
Ms Aitchison said the jobs move defied the government’s own decentralisation policy, which is supposed to move public service jobs from Sydney to regional areas.
“The Hunter region already has unacceptably high unemployment figures,” she said.
“Pinching jobs from the Hunter to the Central Coast does nothing for overall employment in regional areas.
“It’s devastating that a town like Maitland, already hit hard by the mining downturn, will be slugged with another 46 job losses.”
But the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation said the relocation – set to kick in from 2019 – would not affect the vast majority of Office of State Revenue roles in the Hunter, with more than 600 employees to remain at the Maitland and Newcastle branches.
The department was also “exploring the possibility” of an exchange program, where workers reluctant to move to Gosford could swap with those who do want to relocate. It also said no employee would be expected to relocate their residence.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp hit back and said a pattern of public service relocations had emerged, with the latest round being the third office the government planned to close in Newcastle.
“Mike Baird and his ministers treat our city with contempt,” he said. “What exactly is this government’s problem with Newcastle?”
A spokesman for Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet rubbished claims the government wasn’t committed to Newcastle.